October 17th, 1933 – Einstein Evades the Nazis

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Early in 1933, German scientist Albert Einstein recognized what was happening with the rise of the Nazis and the newly elected Chancellor Hitler. Upon Einstein’s third visit to the United States in February 1933, he realized that he could not return to Germany and began plans to flee the tyranny of the Nazi Party. The following month he and his wife Elsa sailed from the United States to Belgium where they then learned that the Nazis had seized Einstein’s boat and cottage which was later turned into an Aryan youth camp. Upon landing in Antwerp on March 28th, he immediately went to the German consulate and turned in his passport, formally renouncing his German citizenship.

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Albert Einstein in 1935

In May of 1933, Einstein’s works were among those targeted by Nazi book burnings, with Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels proclaiming, “Jewish intellectualism is dead.” One German magazine included him in a list of enemies of the German regime with the phrase, “not yet hanged”, offering a $5,000 bounty on his head. Einstein stayed in Belgium until going to England in July 1933 and staying for six weeks. While in Britain, he met with the man who would later lead the fight against Hitler, Winston Churchill, and informed Churchill of what was happening in Germany. Churchill responded immediately, and sent his friend, physicist Frederick Lindemann to Germany to seek out Jewish scientists and place them in British universities. Despite the influential efforts of Einstein’s friend, British naval officer Commander Oliver Locker-Lampson, Britain failed to grant citizenship to the genius refugee, so Einstein looked to the United States.

On October 17th, 1933, Einstein arrived back in America and took up a position at the Institute for Advanced Study (in Princeton, New Jersey), noted for having become a refuge for scientists fleeing Nazi Germany. He was still undecided on his future and had offers from European universities, including Oxford, but in 1935 he arrived at the decision to remain permanently in the United States and apply for citizenship. Five years later Albert Einstein was granted U.S. citizenship.

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Einstein accepting U.S. citizenship certificate from judge Phillip Forman


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